Unlike its dirigible ancestors, the Aeroscraft is not lighter than air. Its 14 million cubic feet of helium hoist only two thirds of the craft's weight. The rigid and surprisingly aerodynamic body—driven by huge rearward propellers—generates enough additional lift to keep the behemoth and its 400-ton payload aloft while cruising. During takeoff and landing, six turbofan jet engines push the ship up or ease its descent.
To minimize noise, the aft-mounted propellers will be electric, powered by a renewable source such as hydrogen fuel cells. A sophisticated buoyancy-management system will serve the same purpose as trim on an airplane, allowing for precise adjustments in flight dynamics to compensate for outside conditions and passenger movement. The automated system will draw outside air into compartments throughout the ship and compress it to manage onboard weight.
The company envisions a cargo-carrying version that could deliver a store's worth of merchandise from a centralized distribution center straight to a Wal-Mart parking lot or, because the helium-filled craft will float, a year's worth of supplies to an offshore oil rig. "You can land on the snow, you can land on the water," Pasternak says. "It's a new vision of what can be done in the air."
Purpose: Long-range travel for passengers who are more concerned with the journey than the destination
Dimensions (feet): 165 h x 244 w x 647 l
Max Speed: 174 mph
Range: 6,000 miles
Capacity: 250 passengers